Joseph McNamara, Reformist Police Chief, Dead at 79

One of the first major law enforcement officials to criticize the drug war and favor marijuana legalization.


SAN JOSE—Joseph D. McNamara, the iconic former chief who helped usher San Jose and its police force into an era of national prominence in public safety, has died after his latest bout with cancer.

McNamara, 79, died in his sleep about 4 a.m. Friday his Monterey-area home. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last Christmas Eve.

He is credited with making sweeping changes to professionalize the department, though the abrupt new direction shook up so many longstanding practices that the rank-and-file gave him a vote of no confidence.

McNamara was one of the first prominent law enforcement officials to criticize the war on drugs. He would later go on to advocate for the legalization of marijuana.